Home Read Classic Album Review: Beastie Boys | To The 5 Boroughs

Classic Album Review: Beastie Boys | To The 5 Boroughs

On their first LP in six years, the beloved rappers deliver a political party album.

This came out in 2004 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


“We’re gonna party for the right to fight.” So says Mike D. on the sixth album from New York City’s beloved Beastie Boys — and I defy anyone to sum up either their musical evolution or current state of mind any tidier and more eloquently than that.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, though, allow me to quickly recap: Twenty years ago, the aforementioned Mike Diamond, Adam (AdRock) Horowitz and Adam (MCA) Yauch burst like a pimple on to the rap scene with a Bud in one hand and a stripper’s butt in the other, ready to (all together now) Fight! For their right! To paaaaaarrrrrrrr-tayy! Since then, however, these clown princes of hip-hop have grown from B-Boys to men who rock the mic for social change, using their lyrics to decry a host of societal and political ills.

For three guys with so much to say, six years is a long time to keep quiet. So it’s perhaps no surprise that To the 5 Boroughs — their long-anticipated followup to 1998’s Hello Nasty — is the trio’s most topical and pointedly political disc to date. “Environmental destruction and the national debt / But plenty of dollars left in the fat war chest,” they note on It Takes Time To Build. “Maybe it’s time that we impeach Tex.” And that’s just one example — several of these 15 tracks follow suit, slamming Dubya, the wars against terror, Afghanistan and Iraq, WMDs and nuclear proliferation.

But if the Beasties have revved up the rhetoric, they haven’t done it at the expense of their music. Although this self-produced disc clocks in at a relatively lean 42 minutes — and admittedly never pushes the sonic envelope as far as the sampledelic Paul’s Boutique or the hard-rocking Ill Communication did — there’s still plenty of funtime, yes indeed. From opener Ch-Check It Out to closer We Got The, these cuts feature all the elements we’ve come to know, love and expect from these mooks: The funky beats, the electro-grooves, the quirky crate-digger samples (everyone from The Partridge Family to The Dead Boys), the obscure pop-culture references (“I’ve got more rhymes than Carl Sagan’s got turtlenecks”), the turntable trickery and sophomoric bluster (“If you don’t like it then hey f—k you!”).

When you consider all that, who cares if To the 5 Boroughs is something of a political album? At least it’s a political party album. And I’ll fight for our right to that any day.